As a linguistics nerd (Linguistics is my minor, focusing on the structure of language because I like writing parsers for automation), I have to shrug my shoulders and say "So?" Unlike French or German, English does not have a governing body that dictates the official language standards. We do have what is though of as Standard English and vernacular Englishes do not fall within that standard, but people still understand it. English standards are only enforced by social pressure, acceptance by the highest tiers of society, the most educated and the most powerful. But how many of you know the four cases of third person masculine pronouns? Not many I'd bet, since that practice has died off. How about when to use thou and you? No? Also a dead practice of English. English changes, has been for the past 1300+ years, and will continue to do so. "Them," "their," "that?" Not even English, those words beginning with eth (eth (ð) is the voiced alveolar-dental fricative we associate with 'th,' rather than the voiceless version, which is represented as theta (θ)) came from Old Norse, and "polluted" the "proper English" in the south of England, but did they ruin the language? "Knight," "enough," "what" used to be pronounced exactly as they are spelled, but country bumpkins and vernacular users simplified the pronunciations. Innovation in the language comes from the outcasts. Standard English has always represented the Powerful, Educated and Wealthy, and Non-Standard English has always represented the solidarity of a class or region of people not accepted by the elite. All the responses that can be paraphrased as "You can't get a job with Ebonics," illustrate this. The top tiers of society has always had an interest in controlling the language, but if they had been successful we'd probably all be speaking French (or hell, even Latin).
As to the protests, I see them as being about the same thing as they are always about. Someone doesn't feel like they are getting their fair shake, so every reason is a reason to to their cause. These aren't illiterate kids, they are getting marked down on their dissertation proposals in graduate school (IE more educated than half of us). I think race has become a sensitive issue again because so many in power refuse to acknowledge the real structural differences in opportunity that remain. Instead, it is ignored, and in reaction the aggrieved overstate their side, leading to a loss of legitimacy for their cause and more ignoring by those not affected. It's not what is being protested that indicates the problem, it's that there is a perceived need to protest that indicates there is a problem. The upside is that the participants still believe that someone will listen when they protest peacefully.